Book 1 of the Terra Incognita series: The Edge of the World, by Kevin J Anderson

Hello my wonderful readers, and welcome to another instalment on Literary Wanderings!

First of all, I’ll preface this entry by saying that it’s VERY HOT here today in the land of Oz. A fizzling 33.4 degrees with about 80% humidity and zero chance of rain. I am sweating horribly, despite my comfy seat on the new sofa and the large mug of iced tea sitting beside me.  My thoughts don’t tend to flow as well on days like this, so do forgive me if some of this is a little garbled.

Second of all, I’m really excited about this book review. Not just because I’m in love with seafaring novels, but because of the story behind how I ended up with this particular novel. I hadn’t read an Anderson novel since high school, and even then was unable to finish due to library restrictions on the number of books I could borrow out. Ever since then (about six years ago) I’d had it in mind to pick up some of his work. Three years passed, and by chance I found the novel I had been reading in high school sitting in a stack of secondhand books at a market stall. Naturally, I picked it up. I haven’t yet delved into that novel (sci-fi), but around the same time, Anderson released The Edge of the World. After reading the blurb, I was hooked. I was unable to purchase it then due to my being on low pay, so filed the thought of ownership away until last year, when I again was in a secondhand store and found my sought-after prize. I bought it then, and after reading it over the last month was very glad I’d stuck with my goals for so long.

What’s so great about this book, you ask? It’s of twofold importance. First, I love anything to do with the ocean. I also love anything to do with history and/or fantasy, so this was the perfect pick. Second, since starting on Pirates of Time I’ve been on the hunt for seafaring novels that might aid me in my quest. The Edge of the World was one such novel. In it, Anderson tells a number of tales that are so intricately woven together that the novel becomes a history of a fantastical world filled with sympathetic magic, giant sea serpents that rule the ocean, and the Leviathan – the most feared giant squid in all the world, which does end up making an appearance at one point. Three separate stories weave their way through the novel: a fisherman who leaves his love behind to travel the world; a King with a quest to find his homeland; and a Soldan (read: Sultan) who wants to reclaim his birthright. They are all woven together under the all-encompassing pages of religion, and a war that has been waged for thousands of years over the ownership of their version of the holy land, and the relics of a great Arkship that is rumoured to belong to one of two legendary brothers. One day in a freak fire, the whole Arkship burns down with the holy land, and each religious side accuses the other of doing the deed. The stalemate between them both turns into a bloodbath, and it takes the ingenuity of a community of unaligned mapmakers (Sanhedrans) to slowly begin to heal the wounds between the two sides. In amongst all this is the unassuming culprit of the fire, a candlemaker and priest whose shop was the epicentre of the flames. He wakes to an ashen world, and after being saved by the opposing side he goes on a killing spree in the name of his god, to try and cleanse himself. We also meet an aged and weary but cunning traveller, who sells goods to get by and takes travellers through secret mountain passes to avoid border patrols.

And oh, the worldbuilding envy! It’s been a while since I’ve read a book as well-constructed as this, and all I would wish is that my own novel can be as solid and well-grounded as The Edge of the World. The amount of detail in the novel is astounding, and Anderson’s well-honed writing skills only make it easier for a reader to get lost amongst the alleyways of market stalls and corridors of royal palaces. Or even lost at sea, with the salty spray whipping against my face and the wind in my hair, the sails flapping above my head as the ship sails into the stormy seas. It’s a work of art, and Anderson is a magician of a calibre I can only dream of equalling. The characterisation in this novel was solid and comprehensive. Each character came alive on the page, regardless of their importance to the plot, and that lent itself to the worldbuilding aspect.

I can find almost no fault with this book, besides the fact that I’m waiting on a second part. I do feel that more time could have been spent on the legends of Anderson’s world, specifically that of the sea monsters and maybe of the god of the Sanhedrans. And possibly not so many fires. But that said, a book sadly cannot go on forever and fire=drama=plot. So I can’t complain.

Does it have a message? I think it does. The similarities between The Edge of the World and our own world’s history are striking, and just as we learnt from those examples we can also learn from the scenarios in The Edge of the World. I do suspect, however, that in following novels all will become clearer. Also if you’re interested, there’s a soundtrack to go with the book! Look up Roswell Six on Google, paired with the novel’s title. You might like what you find.

So with that said, I shall bid you adieu for the moment and return my attentions to Pirates of Time. Stay tuned for my next review on Pride and Prejudice!

Never stop reading!

AdmiralCarter.

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